Parksville councillor Mary Beil would like to see the VIP Motel property (414 Island Highway West) continue on as supportive housing for unhoused people in the community, beyond the March 31 deadline.
In September 2022, the City of Parksville issued a compliance agreement for BC Housing to bring the VIP, also known as Ocean Place, into zoning compliance within 180 days, and find suitable alternative housing options for the residents.
Beil introduced a notice of motion, during council’s March 6 regular meeting, to extend the compliance order’s term and maintain supportive housing services on site until appropriate permitting is in place, pending support from BC Housing.
The motion, if passed, would also allow the property owner, or their representatives, an opportunity to apply for a temporary use permit for the property and invite BC Housing representatives to meet with council to provide an update on plans for an alternate facility.
Since November 2021, the VIP Motel has operated as a temporary supportive housing facility under a partnership between Oceanside Homelessness Ecumenical Advocacy Response Team Society (OHEARTS) and BC Housing.
Beil’s notice of motion also pointed out Parksville’s need for additional supportive housing.
In an emailed statement, BC Housing said the shelter spaces were a temporary response to support people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic and that it will honour its agreement with the city and vacate the VIP Motel after the end of March.
“In partnership with non-profit housing providers, BC Housing has offered new, safe, indoor accommodations to all nine remaining shelter guests. Due to privacy concerns, we are not identifying where these people will be relocating,” the statement said. “We are also working with the Province and partners on comprehensive solutions to address root causes of homelessness and its many challenges.”
Kelly Morris, peer support worker and recovery coach at Ocean Place, said a handful of residents have been relocated.
“People don’t want to move to Nanaimo. They want to be here where their services are,” Morris said.
Paula Miles, manager of Ocean Place, said she is hopeful Beil’s motion will be carried and leave the door open for the facility to continue its operations. She added that some residents have already been relocated to other communities.
“There isn’t anything available in Parksville,” Miles said. “They don’t want to go. They want to stay in this community because when they move them to a new community, the resources and the support that they have don’t go with them. Unless they really want to go, they’re better to be staying in the community where the supports are.”
Miles also said the area needs a long-term solution, low rental housing and a year-round shelter.
“We’re grateful that BC Housing has funded us to this point, but there is a need in the community for their continued funding,” she said.
Beil’s motion will be discussed during council’s next regular meeting on March 20.